A review for Review Forward:
Sometimes you read a story where all the elements just hit you the right way; the language, the atmosphere, the voice, the setting, the characters. That’s Stone Dogs for me, my favorite in this collection of very sharp stories. The school setting is so recognizable and the characters so likable, even the “antagonists”, and the story within the story so fascinating, it feels like you have been to that world before and just needed to be reminded of it.
The first story in the collection, Secret in the House of Smiles, also has a great recognition factor. It too is set in a scholastic environment, a university instead of Stone Dogs’ high school. A modern-day gothic lolita Alice-in-Wonderland hunts quantum vampires with a mad Jack. It’s scary, inventive, fun and poetic at the same time. This is my second favorite story.
Glass Coffin Girls, the title story, and Red Hairs, the sixth story, have some similarities, although the first story is told from a male pov and the second from a female pov, which Jessup does very well. But while the events in the title story are dark and messy, like a Tim Burton script filmed by David Lynch, Red Hairs owes much more to the classical Victorian Gothic story. It’s an elegant, dark, mysterious stay in a place where reality shifts like clockwork.
Perhaps the most touching stories in this collection are Wire Rabbit, with its broken language and patchwork protagonist, and It Tasted Like the Sea, about the use and abuse of the female body and psyche, and the many ways abusive relationships destroy you from the inside.
Through all the strangeness and darkness and danger, Jessup never loses the sight of the very human. His deep respect for and empathy with his characters creates a beautiful and relevant core to his work.
About the reviewer:
Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have or will appear in Elimae, SmokeLong, Metazen, decomP, Unstuck, and other literary journals. Her novel, The Empty City, is a story about silence and is reviewed here. Berit’s short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, will be published by firthFORTH Books in late 2012. Find out more at beritellingsen.com.